South Shields driver seen handing 'bag for life' with £210k inside to member of £17million drugs gang

A driver seen handing a 'bag for life' containing £210,630 to a member of a £17m class A drugs gang has been spared jail.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 5:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 11:14 am

John Purvis was wearing latex gloves when he passed a package to a passenger in a Fiat van, which was later found to contain the huge amount of cash.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the vehicle and its occupants had been under surveillance by police investigating a £17.25m drugs network that imported class A drugs from abroad, via Liverpool, to be distributed across the north east from Teesside.

Prosecutor Jessica Slaughter told the court it was in September 2016 the van was seen parked at shops on Prince Edward Road in South Shields and Purvis drove past in his Audi.

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The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

About an hour later, the van stopped at the same shops and the 31-year-old drove past again, giving a "thumbs up" to the occupants.

Miss Slaughter said: "Police noticed he was wearing latex gloves.

"Both the defendant's Audi and the van left in convoy and the defendant took the lead.

"They came to a stop at a secluded location.

"Police observed the defendant pass a multi-coloured bag for life to the passenger.”

The court heard when the van was driven away from South Shields it made another stop in Washington before being pulled over by police at Wetherby.

Miss Slaughter added: "Inside that bag for life was a large quantity of cash, £210,630."

When the home of the van's occupants was searched police found drugs worth £650,000.

Miss Slaughter said there was no evidence to link Purvis to the drugs or any of the other conspirators.

Purvis was arrested in December 2018, after the drugs gang had been convicted and handed "very long" prison sentences.

The court heard when police visited his home at The Crescent, South Shields, officers found two separate bedrooms had been equipped with three large tents being used to grow cannabis plants.

Purvis told police he handed over the carrier bag of cash, without knowing what it contained, in exchange for £100 after a chance meeting with an old workmate.

Prosecutors accepted the cannabis growing at his home was for personal use.

Purvis pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property and cannabis production.

Judge Robert Adams said Purvis's role in the conspiracy case was "very different" to the others and said: "There is no evidence to link you to the drugs themselves.

"There is no evidence of telephone contact between you and the people to whom you were dropping off the money.

"There is no suggestion you had any more extensive involvement."

Judge Adams sentenced Purvis to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with a two month nighttime curfew and programme requirements.

The judge added: "Strangely, you were seen to be wearing latex gloves at the time, perhaps suggesting you had some idea of what was contained in the package."

The court heard Purvis has been assessed as a "low risk" and "naive".

Paul Reid, defending, said; "He has never been in trouble before and is never going to be in trouble again."